Trainer Visit – The Bad

I recently posted about the trainer visit and what we thought were the “good points” to take away from our visit. In this post I’m going to cover what I think were the “bad points” from the visit. Again if this is how you train your dogs that is totally fine but just personally I believed the following points are not for us.


The “Bad”

  • Although the trainer is a positive reinforcement trainer who uses treats for training and does not use or condone aversive training equipment such as choke chains etc he believes in dominance in dogs and that we need to be a leader above the dog – he condemns Cesar Millan as he doesn’t believe it needs to be done through force or intimidation but through utmost consistency and “rank reduction” which is covered in the following points below which I think is a bit bizarre and I don’t particularly agree with.
  • Not allowed on furniture or beds – this is a personal choice for many but I don’t think it has any impact on dogs “thinking they are above us” or whatever. I just think dogs like home comforts and being near their family. I like Bonnie cuddling up with us when we’re watching TV and early morning cuddles in bed before work.
  • Not allowed to give affection when the dog tries to initiate it – you should wait until it’s moving away then call it and give affection on your own terms. He recommend holding the collar while petting the head (what looked  like pretty forcefully) and keep giving affection until you deem finished even if the dog tries to pull away. We tried this once each and was super uncomfortable with it and stopped. We don’t want to stop her moving away if shes uncomfortable, after all that would just be disrespecting her signs of discomfort and ruin her trust in us to keep her feeling safe and comfortable. Also I don’t want Bonnie to give up and stop trying to initiate affection on her own terms, I want her to feel comfortable approaching us when she needs to be comforted.
  • Always eat before giving Bonnie her meals – prepare her meal and show that it’s ready and then sort ourselves out first. I don’t really think this is necessary, sometimes we do this anyway but on some days when we come back from work starving we prepare our dinner first, other times, usually in the morning, we give her meal first to keep her occupied while we get ourselves ready.
  • Don’t let her eat in peace and always change where you fed her. He suggests petting her and moving her bowl and food while eating to prevent bowl aggression but I actually think this is far more damaging and more likely to cause bowl guarding and food aggression. I think a dog should be left to eat in peace, after all she doesn’t come over and paw at us while we eat dinner or pull the plate away from us.
  • Don’t let her walk through doors first or go ahead of us when going up or down stairs. Again I don’t think this is a big deal, we always go out the front and back door to the house first but that is for safety to check if any cats are nearby as Bonnie loves to chase them!
  • Besides these “rank reduction” techniques and some advice on crating, engagement games and advising the agility classes to mentally wear her out, we didn’t get really any personalised or tailored advice like how to deal with meeting other dogs on walks, how to help with her noise sensitivities through desensitisation etc.


So overall although we took some good points away from the visit we were left a bit frustrated at spending that money and a bit bewildered too as the advice above didn’t really get on with my beliefs and also he didn’t give us any real tangible or practical advice for real life scenarios that cause us difficulties. Like even if “rank reduction” techniques worked would that cure her sound sensitivity to vacuums etc? Somehow I don’t think so!

Anyway we are forging our own path with our training and trying to feel out what is best for Bonnie and keeps her most comfortable as even some positive reinforcement advice and techniques is aversive for Bonnie such as walking the opposite direction when the lead goes tight on walks. So hopefully we’ll do a post soon about what we have been trying out and how we are getting on! We have been having a lot of fun recently and taking things a little less seriously and doing our best to remember that she is not just her issues and that besides those she is a fun, cuddly and goofy little dog that’s a blast to have!

Bonnie having a chilled out rolling session in the grass, this is a big deal for us as it was somewhere a bit new for her and she eventually calmed to feel comfortable enough to do this! 😀

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18 thoughts on “Trainer Visit – The Bad

  1. I have serious issues with Cesar Millan’s training techniques however, 3 points are worth noting:
    1. He admits to no scientific evidence to support his technique.
    2. His technique works based on his practical experience.
    3. In his latest book, he acknowledges the above and does recognize the benefits of positive reinforcement.

    I do not agree that dominance is necessarily important, but more that the dog feels part of the family. The dog will soon learn what it can/cannot do. Ray soon learned that barking for food got him nothing, but sitting and waiting got him yummy treats. It didn’t take him long to catch on!

    Ray was carrying a lot of emotional baggage and was considered “challenging”. We relied heavily on the Oakville & Milton Humane Society trainers for advice, together with books by Pat Miller and Patricia McConnell….. all of which supported positive reinforcement as the method of choice to acclimatize a dog to a home.

    All the trials and tribulations of my first 18 months with Ray (my first dog!) are detailed in his book.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

    Newcomers to dog ownership, or those contemplating a dog would benefit from reading the book (and all profits go to the Oakville & Milton Humane Society).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Colin, appreciated as always 🙂 Thanks for the advice on resources, I have read “The other end of the leash” but it has been a while so I may need to brush up on it again. Also I haven’t read anything from Pat Miller, would you have any particular recommendations for books from either author? I have definitely enjoyed reading your book so far but haven’t set aside time for any reading recently so must get back around to it as it’s pretty fascinating! I didn’t realise that all profits went to the society that’s so very generous of you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The books that we used are :
        The Cautious Canine – Patricia McConnell
        The Other End of the Leash – Patricia McConnell
        Do Over Dogs (Give Your Dog a Second Chance for a First Class Life) – Pat Miller
        Play With Your Dog – Pat Miller
        The Power of Positive Dog Training (2nd Edition) – Pat Miller
        Positive Perspectives (Love your Dog / Train your Dog) – Pat Miller
        and to ensure that we got a balanced perspective…
        Cesar’s Rules (Your way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog) – Cesar Millan

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lot of points I’ll have to come back to later on but just a quick one to say if you haven’t already heard of Carol Price – strongly recommend doing a quick Google search and / or buying some of her books.

    She has a fantastic approach and a genuine passion for these dogs which comes across in how she speaks and writes about them.

    “Collie Psychology” is by far my favourite and one I think you might find useful but everything by Carol Price is excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting I haven’t heard of Carol Price before so I’ll look into that cheers! I’m looking forward to your other points later as I’m always interested in hearing other people’s opinions on training 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. Okay. Was actually not expecting the trainer to have recommended such crappy things.

    I think the worst points they advised has to be messing with Bonnie’s food bowl as she eats (*always* makes me cringe when trainers recommend this as a way to prevent RG – especially when it’s with an adult / nervous dog!) and forcing your attention onto a dog that doesn’t want it. That to me just seems a brilliant way to entirely destroy your relationship with your dog, and how to teach them to be afraid of people.

    I love when my dogs ask for affection, and affection is always on their terms – of course, I’ll let them know if I’m busy or not in the mood, but asking is fine. Forcing my dog to sit still as I bother him is just gonna piss him off and teach him that interactions with me suck! It kinda feels similar(ish) to when a dog growls because he’s scared, and you keep yelling at the dog, until he has to bite you…you keep forcing attention on a dog when they ask to be left alone, they’re gonna have to think of more obvious ways to tell you to sod off!

    And then you got given the standard dominance BS; eating first, going through doors first and not being allowed on furniture…super lame, and I can only imagine how disappointed you were when you a) went to this person for help, and b) paid them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea I was quite shocked whenever he started saying these things but I didn’t want to end the meeting short because first he wasn’t doing anything necessarily wrong like using or condoning punishment and also in case he has some useful and practical advice to give us.

      Yea those two points are definitely the worst as Bonnie already has a tendency to resource guard – she has never growled at us as we try to be careful and respectful of her eating but she stiffens and eats quicker or moves away with her kong sometimes when we come close. But we have been working on that in our own safer way of throwing ham into her bowl or at her while shes eating her kong etc after all she’s not doing it out of malice she’s just insecure about her food source which stems from her stray life or her life at the rescue centre and also I would be lividif someone messed with my dinner while I was eating it.

      I am quite dissapointed as I thought because the trainer was well qualified and registered, and is a proponent of positive reinforcement and no punishment training that he wouldn’t spout this type of thing. I think for a future post though I am going to write up why he, his clients and many others have had success whether perceived or actual, with this type of rank reduction or dominance training or whatever you want to call it as I find it fascinating analysing why it seems to have some effect on certain households even though its not based on science. Basically I have been talking loads about it with my partner and think it would be cool to share my thoughts and see what others think too and give my partner a break about talking about it haha


      1. My understanding is that a lot of theories re leadership etc are based on the belief that because it is the natural order of things for wolves, it is therefore inherently natural for dogs. It is also my understanding that wolves and dogs separated many years ago and have as much in common as we do with early man. i.e. natural developments and adjustments to conditions have changed perspectives considerably. That is not to say that dogs may not acknowledge a leader, but that it is not an important factor in their life any more…. unlike wolves where it is seen as a survival necessity.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that it is safe to assume that dog trainers, just like doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers etc. etc., have their fair share of delinquents in their profession. There are those who never learn anything more once they have received their professional certification, and there are those who really should be in a new profession as they have clearly lost interest. Fortunately, we usually have choices so can look for a more competent professional next time! Sadly we, as a species, leave a lot to be desired. I think I prefer dogs! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true Colin, it’s very difficult to make informed judgments before we meet these people in person as many others seem happy with their services so hopefully next time we have a bit of better luck! Yes there are definitely days I only want to see Bonnie and my degus and no one else, maybe my partner too haha 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. we had a dog behaviourist instead of a trainer come to visit to get miss Millie ready to share her home with foster pups, as she could get food and toy snappy. He does not like Ceaser, but said it wasn’t a dominance thing, but a mutual understanding which I liked. A few things that we changed really helped her, (and as we have lapsed I’ve noticed a change in her for the worse, so we are back to trying to stick to what we where told) He said that the reason you shouldn’t have the dog in the kitchen when you cook, and they should eat after you is because if they watch you, they can get the feeling that they are your protector, as they would in the wild, in turn this small unnoticeable act can turn into separation anxiety which is what was happening to Millie, when we stick with it, I really see a change in her, and she is much happier and calmer. The other thing he said was she shouldn’t sit at the top of the stairs but wait at the bottom when guests come (We are currently failing here), and that we shouldn’t fuss her as soon as we come in (Which we are a hit and a miss with, but she does seem better if we come home and potter about for a few mins so it doesn’t seem like such a big occasion. Other than that we now do training with sign language which is a) great fun and b) is good when you need to be quiet. With those simple steps she seems to be much happier and more comfy with herself. I would defiantly recommend a behaviourist over a trainer , and would suggest getting in touch with a few local rescue centers to see who they use. You and Bonnie seem to be doing a great job together xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great that you have had success with your behaviorist, I know separation anxiety is a difficult thing to deal with so I’m glad Millie is much calmer and happier with your training 🙂

      We seem to be doing okay at the minute with Bonnie but I think a behaviourist would benefit us at some point, we are still researching what is available to us as we didn’t quite receive the service that we believed we would receive when researching this trainer so we are taking our time and also because we have spent a lot on Bonnie recently so will be another while yet before we make any concrete plans.

      I love your idea for doing sign language training, we do trick training but I usually use cues too so I think we will try more “silent” training sessions in future, thanks for the idea 😀

      Thanks I really appreciate that, we are trying our best together xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it’s not the same for everyone of course and there are good and bad for both, but after having a similar experience to you with a trainer, we tried a behaviourist (who worked at our local dogs home too) which seemed to suit us much better. Xx

        Liked by 1 person

  6. They really did give you some sub-par advice! The stuff you wrote on your “good review” was very positive and then this is just appalling and I would have abandoned it as you have. Things like furniture and doors are personal preference but messing with them when they’re eating and forcing contact when they’re uncomfortable is just asking to get bitten.

    Sometimes, you have to compromise with a trainer in order to find someone in your area you’re at least half able to work with – I totally get that and have walked away from a lot so I mean this in the nicest way possible but are you sure you want to go to agility classes with this person? If you think they’ll respect your difference of opinion then by all means go for it but it’s worth keeping your guard up for a while. A trainer I thought I could tolerate by altering the method to suit my dog was hastily abandoned when they said I would kill my dog because they didn’t agree with how I feed. Had this person any idea what they were talking about or even spoken to me privately about it afterwards we could possibly have moved past it but the idea was presented as fact to the whole class as said trainer was giving completely incorrect information regarding the issue…. Point being, just be prepared for any eventuality and I wish you the best of luck. Bonnie is one lucky dog

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea I was really surprised as I usually associate the dominance or rank reduction with balanced trainers rather than positive reinforcement training so it was pretty unexpected as nothing on the website mentioned it.

      I totally agree with you I don’t think anyone with sense should be doing those 2 things, the sad thing is with Bonnie is she probably wouldn’t even growl never mind bite she would just shut down and totally regress the confidence she had gained with us.

      Yea we are going to give the agility classes a go but like you said we will keep our guard up and not let him push us into doing something that we are not comfortable with. As I think she would love agility as we have done small bits with her that she really enjoyed but I’m definitely not going to take any suspect advice from him even if he says it’ll make her a better agility dog or whatever because at the end of the day her wellbeing is far more important to me than becoming super competitive.

      I honestly can’t believe that trainer said that, not only is it a load of nonsense but the fact she didn’t say it privately to you is infuriating. There is nothing I hate more than a person that has authority in the eyes of the public to use their power to spread misinformation whether it’s just ignorance or plain downright dangerous. And the fact that people just accept this as fact because so and so said it rather than doing their own research. Sorry mini rant there haha but it’s something I’m very passionate about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good luck with the agility, Laufey loves it and I’m sure Bonnie will too. Luckily I’ve found a gem of an agility trainer and she’s a behaviourist to boot.
        That particular trainer did really rile me and like you, the website looked spectacular with all “force free” wording and then didn’t actually follow it in training. I wouldn’t recommend her to anyway but I think it’s put our rally plans on the back-burner as she’s huge in the rally world and the only rally trainer in our area so I can’t see us doing any comps in the foreseeable future! I saw said trainer a couple of weeks ago and she blanked me despite talking to the people I was with!!
        People really do need to do some good research but I can see why people do just trust a “professional” when what should be a simple google search for something as easy as “how to teach a sit” will give you everything from treats to a shock collar and all tv trainers seem to go from problem-dog to perfect angel in the space of 40 minutes

        Liked by 1 person

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